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Chef Sara Salzinski

Chef at The Chopping Block since: 2002

Favorite class to teach: That's a tough one. I like teaching the more technical classes such as sauces, our 101 classes and Pasta Workshop.

Training/education: Graduate of Kendall College in 1997. I trained at Ambria and Blackbird.

Cooking since: I've been cooking since I was 15 years old.

Favorite childhood food experience: My mom cooked just about every night, and we would all sit down together as a family to eat. I also remember my parents taking me and my brothers to Pizzeria Due. That was my first introduction to deep dish pizza.

What made you want to become a chef? It just felt right. I quickly realized that I felt at home in the kitchen.

What is your signature dish? I don't really have a signature dish, but I really love to cook Thanksgiving dinner, roast and braise meats and make pasta from scratch.

What are the 5 ingredients you can't live without? Pasta, butter, salt, cheese and popcorn.

What do you love about cooking? It is such a great outlet. It's relaxing (most of the time) and allows me to unwind after a busy day. It feels so good to be able to provide my family with a well balanced, healthy and home cooked meal.

When you're creating a new recipe, what influences and inspires you? Other Chopping Block chefs, my husband (an instructor at Le Cordon Bleu), cooking magazines and cooking shows.

What advice would you give a new cook? Don't be afraid to experiment with new flavors, and remember to salt your food!

What are you doing when you're not cooking? Going on adventures with my family, gardening, reading or drinking wine.

Describe your perfect evening. A glass of wine, the couch and a good movie with my husband.

If you had friends in from out of town, where would you take them to eat? Avec or the Publican for dinner, Sun Wah for the BEST Chinese food for lunch and dim sum at Furama for brunch.

Where are you from? Highland Park, IL

What was your favorite vacation? Going to New Orleans for Jazz Fest.

What are your hobbies? Gardening, reading and listening to music.

What is your favorite band? Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Steely Dan, Los Lobos.

What is your favorite sports team? I am so not into sports!

If you could have dinner with one person, who would it be? My husband, Mike.

What are your guilty pleasures? Heavy cream, butter, cheese and chocolate cake.

Who is your favorite celebrity chef? Jacque Pepin

What 5 tools should every new cook have in the kitchen?

  • Microplane grater
  • Lemon squeezer
  • 10" sauté pan
  • Sharp 8" or 10" chef's knife
  • Tongs

What resources would you suggest for Chopping Block students? The Spice House, Paulina Meat Market and Saveur Magazine. The old PBS episodes of Jacque Peppin and Julia Child are so awesome and informative.

List your favorite tips or techniques you use in the kitchen.

Always taste your food for seasoning, crush canned tomatoes in a Ziploc bag so they don't splatter. I also like to bake cakes but if I'm short on time I will make the cake into cupcakes. It cuts down on the baking/cooling time so you can enjoy them sooner.

My favorite cooking technique is braising. I love creating multiple layers of flavors in one dish. It's also a great way to clean out your refrigerator or freezer.

Sara's Favorite Tool

OxoTongsMy favorite tool? Tongs. That’s right. Don’t underestimate the power of good tongs. They are an absolute essential tool you must have in your kitchen. And, not just any tongs.

You want tongs that have a good solid grip so your hand wont slip and can lock to save space, like the OXO tongs we carry at The Chopping Block. Next to knives they are the most used tool in my kitchen because they are an extension of my hand. They jump in when the going gets rough allowing me to handle my food properly so I can achieve the best results. From turning steaks, to tossing salads and pastas, for all of your grilling needs, and for reaching that box of cereal on the top shelf, tongs will never let you down.